FUNERAL FLYOVER REQUESTS
The missing man formation is an aerial salute performed as part of a flyover of aircraft
at a funeral or memorial event,
typically in memory of a fallen pilot.
In 1936, King George V received the first recorded flypast for a non-RAF funeral. The
United States adopted the tradition in 1938 during the funeral for Major General Oscar
Westover with over 50 aircraft and one blank file. By the end of World War II, the missing
man formation had evolved to include the pull-up. In April 1954, United States Air Force
General Hoyt Vandenberg was buried at Arlington National Cemetery without the traditional
horse-drawn artillery caisson. Instead, Vandenberg was honored by a flyover of jet aircraft
with one plane missing from the formation.
Several variants of the formation are seen. The formation most commonly used in the United
States is based on the "finger-four" aircraft combat formation composed of two, two-aircraft
elements. The aircraft fly in a V-shape with the flight leader at the point and his wingman on
his left. The second element leader and his wingman fly to his right. The formation flies over
the ceremony low enough to be clearly seen and the element leader abruptly pulls up out of the
formation while the rest of the formation continues in level flight until all aircraft are out
In an older variant the formation is flown with one position conspicuously empty. In another
variation, the flight approaches from the south, preferably near sundown, and one of the
aircraft will suddenly split off to the west, flying into the sunset.
In all cases, the aircraft performing the pull-up, split off, or missing from the formation,
represents the fact that the person (or persons) being honored has died.
:: Before requesting a funeral flyover, please see "Eigibility".
:: Little Rock Air Force Base Mortuary Affairs
:: Arkansas National Guard Military Funeral Honors State Coordinator